Friday, February 26, 2010

The crazy war against Toyota

This thing has gotten so bizarre, it is beyond a simple story of quality control.  A company that virtually invented modern quality control and taught it to the rest of the world is being attacked for producing shoddy products.  Most of the accusations are borderline insane as in "my car started to accelerate uncontrollably and I was not able to stop it even when standing on the brakes."

Car and Driver magazine dismissed this silliness with the following:
Certainly the most natural reaction to a stuck-throttle emergency is to stomp on the brake pedal, possibly with both feet. And despite dramatic horsepower increases since C/D’s 1987 unintended-acceleration test of an Audi 5000, brakes by and large can still overpower and rein in an engine roaring under full throttle. With the Camry’s throttle pinned while going 70 mph, the brakes easily overcame all 268 horsepower straining against them and stopped the car in 190 feet—that’s a foot shorter than the performance of a Ford Taurus without any gas-pedal problems and just 16 feet longer than with the Camry’s throttle closed. From 100 mph, the stopping-distance differential was 88 feet—noticeable to be sure, but the car still slowed enthusiastically enough to impart a feeling of confidence. We also tried one go-for-broke run at 120 mph, and, even then, the car quickly decelerated to about 10 mph before the brakes got excessively hot and the car refused to decelerate any further. So even in the most extreme case, it should be possible to get a car’s speed down to a point where a resulting accident should be a low-speed and relatively minor event. more
They also reminded us of past incidents of baseless slander against an automobile maker:
Some Context: Audi's "Unintended Acceleration"
In 1986, the television program 60 Minutes started Audi's "unintended acceleration" scandal. The show trotted out tearful people, recounted death and carnage, spoke to so-called experts, and generally made it seem like the vehicle in question, the Audi 5000, was a roving menace with a mind of its own. In the end, the U.S. government determined that every single so-called unintended acceleration accident was the result of driver error. Some speculated that because Audi's pedals were closer together than those of some other brands, people were too uncoordinated to choose the correct one. The pedal-placement issue Audi faced at that time parallels the throttle-kill issue Toyota faces now.
What Does This Mean for Toyota?
Even if you buy our argument that most of the "unintended acceleration" issues are actually driver error and the company ultimately is vindicated, Toyota is still screwed. Audi sales were depressed for a decade and a half after the false claims leveled against it. Toyota either blames its customers and faces the wrath of the media or expresses contrition and admits it has quality issues. Perhaps having learned from the backlash against Audi when it—rightly—blamed its customers, Toyota has chosen the latter course of action. more
In fact, this slander is SO baseless, that Mike Whitney over at Counterpunch has written:
It's All Politics
The War on Toyota
Does anyone really believe that Toyota is being pilloried in the media for a few highway fatalities?
Nonsense. If Congress is so worried about innocent people getting killed, then why haven't they indicted US commander Stanley McChrystal for blowing up another 27 Afghan civilians on Sunday?
But this isn't about bloodshed and it's certainly not "safety regulations". It's about politics--bare-knuckle Machiavellian politics. An attack on Toyota is an attack on Japan's leading export. It is an act of war. Here's a excerpt from the New York Times which explains what is really going on: more

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